November 16, 2016
The reason people choose one pet or another is always intriguing to me. Why someone opted for a pit bull over a Himalayan cat tells me a little about a person’s character, and sometimes it even makes me like the person a little more because I have that secret insight into his or her humanity. Here at Jakewood, we have lots of animals, and none of them really came to us by selection – their arrival was usual providential – or as an old friend used to say, “godincidence.” Currently, there are four horses, four dogs, five inside cats and two (or three, depending upon the day) outside cats, and two pigs. Correction, one pig.
Today we said farewell to Grace, a pot-bellied pig who’s been part of our life at Jakewood for thirteen years. I don’t know how old she was, but she was old. I heard that pigs can live to be nearly thirty, and she wasn’t at all a baby when she came to us in 2003. And even though we knew her time had come and death was a welcome end to her pains and suffering, being part of the family for so many years only made the goodbye more painful.
Grace was funny and friendly, and she never met a garlic knot she didn’t love. She was a good mother to her daughter, Angelina, and she had a little ‘nasty woman’ streak in her. When her old beau, Will – a real deadbeat dad in the potbellied pig set, ambled by to visit a few months after she’d given birth to eight little piglets, I swear she stood up just a little straighter and made herself look ravishing as he gazed across the fence at her. But she didn’t give him a second look, turning her head in the opposite direction as he snuffled his way up to the pen where we’d relocated she and the piglets for their safety. He grunted sadly several times and wandered away. We never saw him again after that, but Grace never seemed lonely. When we brought her scraps from our favorite pizza shop, she gobbled them with gusto, and she always put on a show when little kids would come to visit – grumbling and letting out a couple of squeals as though she’d been put out but eagerly nosing toward any proffered goodie. She was gentle with even the tiniest or most trepidatious tot, and I always knew she loved me because she allowed me to scratch her back and rub her ears, even when no one else seemed to be able to get close enough to offer that familiarity. She’d been injured somewhere along the way, and only three of her four stubby table-legs functioned, but it never seemed to affect her good humour.
Last weekend, Grace took ill, and just as when she was so tired from giving birth to all those piglets, I had to coax and help her drink water and take food. She was gracious and grateful for the assistance, and between Dan’s medical ministrations and my nurturing, she managed to have a few blissfully sweet last days. But yesterday she didn’t seem interested in food at all, and today when I checked on her from school, Dan said she wasn’t eating or drinking. We knew the end was nigh. It came while I was driving home from teaching. With Dan by her side, stroking her head, she took her last breath of fresh air and floated off into forever. I hope she’s scampering around on all four legs now, swishing her tail and enjoying the feeling of cool mud on a simmering summer afternoon. Still, for an animal we never asked for and certainly were not prepared for, Grace was a gift to our lives, and I will miss her terribly. Godspeed, Grace. I hope there are garlic knots in hog heaven.